# Randolf comments on Math is Subjunctively Objective - Less Wrong

12 25 July 2008 11:06AM

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Comment author: 18 October 2011 11:09:55PM *  -2 points [-]

I think he will have a strong feeling that pi is about 3.141... . Like I said, in my definition truth is subjective and may chance since it's tied to the person's beliefs / feelings. This may not seem beatiful to everyone, but I can live with that.

Comment author: 18 October 2011 11:16:27PM 1 point [-]

I think he will have a strong feeling that pi is about 3.141...

Why ?

Like I said, in my definition truth is subjective and may chance since it's tied to the person's beliefs / feelings.

Hmm, well, if you truly believe that truth is subjective, then there's nothing I can do to dissuade you, by definition -- since my subjective opinion is as good as yours. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go build some hula-hoops, and then maybe take to the skies by will alone.

Comment author: 18 October 2011 11:28:52PM 7 points [-]

“Listen,” Darwin says, more kindly now, “I have a simple notion for resolving your dispute. You say,” says Darwin, pointing to Mark, “that people’s beliefs alter their personal realities. And you fervently believe,” his finger swivels to point at Autrey, “that Mark’s beliefs can’t alter reality. So let Mark believe really hard that he can fly, and then step off a cliff. Mark shall see himself fly away like a bird, and Autrey shall see him plummet down and go splat, and you shall both be happy.”

Doesn't seem to apply here, because Randolf admits that reality doesn't care what nonsense he believes. The only problem is he seems intent on describing that nonsense as 'truth' and refusing to label what it is that reality is doing, which is what everyone else is calling 'truth'.

Comment author: 18 October 2011 11:35:59PM 1 point [-]

Hehe, I knew someone would pick up on my reference, I just didn't realize how fast it would happen :-)

But my point was this: if Randolf really does believe that truth is subjective, and that it is arrived at mostly through feelings and intuitions, then he has effectively removed himself from rational debate. There's nothing I can say that will persuade him one way or another, because there's no useful mechanism by which my subjective beliefs can influence his subjective beliefs. So, there's little point in arguing with him on this (or any other) topic.

Randolf, my apologies if I seem to be putting words in your mouth; the above paragraph is simply my personal interpretation of your claim, taken to its logical conclusion.

Comment author: 18 October 2011 11:48:36PM *  0 points [-]

No, I think you understood pretty well what I meant. However, even though I may not be a rationalist myself, I think I can still take part in rational debate by embracing the definition of rational truth during that debate. Same way a true Christian can take part in a scientific debate about evolution, even if he doesn't actually believe that evolution is true. Rational talk, just like any talking, can also change my feelings and intuitions and hence persuade me to change my subjective beliefs.

However, I now realise this wasn't exactly the right place to tell about my idea of subjective truth. Sorry about that.

Comment author: 19 October 2011 12:01:50AM 2 points [-]

I think I can still take part in rational debate by embracing the definition of rational truth during that debate

I don't think it will work in this case, because we're debating the very notion of rational truth.

However, I now realise this wasn't exactly the right place to tell about my idea of subjective truth.

I personally didn't mean to give you that impression at all, I apologize if I did. Just because I happen to think that using reason to debate with someone who does not value reason is futile, doesn't mean that I want to actively discourage such debate. After all, I could be wrong !

Comment author: 19 October 2011 12:19:11AM 0 points [-]

Yes, I agree, it doesn't work on this case. It was an interesting talk though, thank you for that. Now I must sleep over this..

Comment author: 18 October 2011 11:34:14PM *  0 points [-]

Hmm, well, if you truly believe that truth is subjective, then there's nothing I can do to dissuade you, by definition -- since my subjective opinion is as good as yours. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go build some hula-hoops, and then maybe take to the skies by will alone

Oh, you probably could. I'm not so fond on this definition. It's just something I have found most satisfying so far but it's still subject to chance (How ironic!).

Comment author: 19 October 2011 02:55:35AM 1 point [-]

I think he will have a strong feeling that pi is about 3.141...

That's the key issue. Reality is doing something here. And you know, in advance what his model will move to. You don't think he will succeed at his event. At the end of the day, you are pretty sure that there's something objective going on.

More starkly, I can give you mathematical examples where your intuition will be wildly at odds with the correct math. Some of those make fun games to play for money. I suspect that you won't be willing to play them with me even if your intuition says that you should win and I shouldn't.

Comment author: 19 October 2011 10:56:23AM *  0 points [-]

That's a bit differend from what I'm trying to say. My word choosing of intuition was clearly bad, I should have talked about mental experiences. My point is that when I do the mathematics, when I, for example, use the axioms and theorems of natural numbers to proof that 1+1 is 2, I have to rely on my memories and feelings at some point. If I use a theorem proven before, I must rely on my memories that I have proven that theorem before and correctly, but remembering is just another type of vaque mental experience. I could also remember axioms of natural numbers wrong, even if it would seem clear to me that I remember them correctly. I have to rely on the feeling of remembering correctly. This is why I define truth as what you truly believe. Once you have carefully checked that you used all the axioms and theorems correctly, you will truly believe that you made no mistake. Then you can truly believe that 1 + 1 is 2, and it's safe to say its the truth.

Comment author: 19 October 2011 03:36:50PM *  2 points [-]

FWIW: I agree with you that:

• my beliefs are always the outputs of real-world embodied algorithms (for example, those associated with remembering previously proven axioms) and therefore not completely reliable.
• there exists a non-empty set S1 of assertions that merit a sufficiently high degree of confidence that it is safe to call them "true" (while keeping in mind when it's relevant that we mean "with probability 1-epsilon" rather than "with probability 1").

I would also say that:

• there exists a non-empty set S2 of assertions that don't merit a high degree of confidence, and that it is not safe to call them true.
• the embodied algorithms we use to determine our confidence in assertions are sufficiently unreliable that we sometimes possess a high degree of confidence in S2 assertions. This confidence is not merited, but we sometimes possess it nevertheless.

Would you agree with both of those statements?

Assuming you do, then it seems to follow that by "what I truly believe" you mean to exclude statements in S2. (Since otherwise, I could have a statement in S2 that I truly believe, and is therefore definitionally true, which is at the same time not safe to call true, which seems paradoxical.)

Assuming you do, then sure: if I accept that "what I truly believe" refers to S1 and not S2, then I agree that truth is what I truly believe, although that doesn't seem like a terribly useful thing to know.

Comment author: 08 November 2011 04:07:20PM *  0 points [-]

Yes, I think you managed to put my thoughts into words very well here. Probably a lot more clearly than I.